The Pleasure Shock

The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor

The electrifying, forgotten history of Robert Heath’s brain pacemaker, investigating the origins and ethics of one of today’s most promising medical breakthroughs: deep brain stimulation.

The technology invented by psychiatrist Robert G. Heath at Tulane University in the 1950s and ’60s has been described as one of “the most controversial yet largely undocumented experiments in US history”-controversial to us because Heath’s research subjects included incarcerated convicts and gay men who wished to be “cured” of their sexual preference; controversial in its day because his work was allegedly part of MKUltra, the CIA’s notorious “mind control” project.

As a result, Heath’s cutting-edge research and legacy were put under lock and key, buried in Tulane’s archives. The ethical issues raised by his work have also been buried: This very same experimental treatment is becoming mainstream practice in modern psychiatry for everything from schizophrenia, anorexia, and compulsive behavior to depression, aggression, anxiety, and even drug and alcohol addiction.

In the first book to tell the full story, the award-winning science writer Lone Frank has uncovered lost documents and accounts of Heath’s pioneering efforts. She has tracked down surviving colleagues and patients. And she has delved into the current embrace of deep brain stimulation by scientists and patients alike. What has changed? Why do we today unquestioningly embrace this technology as a cure? How do we decide what is a disease of the brain to be cured and what should be allowed to remain unprobed and unprodded?

The Pleasure Shock weaves together biography, neuroscience, psychology, the history of science, and medical ethics to explore our views of the mind and the self. How do we decide whether changes to the brain are acceptable therapy or are simply bias and bigotry?

The book is available here.

My Beautiful Genome

My Beautiful Genome – Exposing our Gentic Future One Quirk at a Time is published in the UK by Oneworld Publishers. This book is my very personal take on personal genomics. It chronicles my meetings and interviews with leading scientists and lays out the – somtimes disquieting – discoveries I make in my own genome. You find a sneak peek here. And the whole book is available here.

“I haven’t seen Lone Frank’s entire genome, but it’s obvious from the first page of My Beautiful genome that she’s got the SKFF-2 gene (Sharp as a Knife and Frigging’ Funny too). No decoding needed here: I love this book.”

– Mary Roach

“Before I read My Beautiful Genome I could not decide if I would ever get my genome analyzed, but now I’m sending in my spit ASAP. Lone Frank is one of the surest science writers I’ve ever read. She not only explains with great clarity the technical twists and turns of the science behind unraveling the double helix, she does so in such a page-turning, conversational style that once I started, I couldn’t stop. Read this book your genetic future may depend on it.’

–Michael Shermer

Included in the top ten list of this millennium’s best Scandinavian non-fiction works.

Mindfield

How Brain Science is Changing Our World

“Written as a series of almost breathless stories, it does a great job of exploring the impending neurorevolution and sometimes scary consequences of neuro-technology.”

– Professor Susan Blackmore, BBC Focus Magazine

“Best of all, her hesitant participation in experiments – from having a neurologically induced religious experience to learning the secrets of empathy – along with brutally honest descriptions of the experts, add a welcome dose of humour.”

–New Scientist

From religious experience, moral sense and personal choice to subliminal advertising, lie-detection and self-control, the brain has become the focal point for all questions about human nature. Modern neuroscience is now going to the heart of what it means to be human, and beginning to have important social and political repercussions, forcing us to think afresh about who we really are, why we behave as we do and where we are going.

Mindfield is the first book to document this coming age of ‘neurocentrism’. In it the award-winning science writer Lone Frank surveys how brain researchers are dissecting everything that makes us human and anchoring all sorts of phenomena we have previously considered incorporeal in soggy biology. She explores the influence these neuroscientific findings are having on society, reveals how this in turn is changing both the structure and the function of our brains, and speculates on what this cognitive revolution means for us all.

Interlacing fascinating accounts of the latest findings with witty and irreverent interviews with leading researchers in their laboratories, Mindfield is an exemplary work of popularization that provides nothing short of a comprehensive survey of the frontiers of modern neuroscience.